By Zakiya Scott
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
Saturday marks the eight-month anniversary of TROSA (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers) Grocery on the corner of Angier Avenue in Northeast Central Durham. According to Independent Weekly, its opening brought a much needed supply of fresh produce to a community known as a “food desert,” all the while giving TROSA program residents a chance to recover from substance abuse. Now, store manager Wendy Noël says that she is coming up with new ways to make TROSA Grocery more integrated in the NECD community in hopes that it will spur new development in the Angier-Driver neighborhood.
From the intersection at Driver Street, TROSA Grocery and Joe’s Diner seem to be almost out of place on a seemingly abandoned commercial strip. It’s no coincidence that they are both investments by Joe Bushfan, an entrepreneur who operates Joe’s Diner and owns both buildings.
“My main scope was to open something that was nice, clean and genuine. To show the community that someone cares,” said Bushfan.
Just before the holidays an electrical fire swept through Samuel and Sons Barber Shop, two doors down from TROSA Grocery. From the ruins that remain, it is hard to distinguish the Barber Shop from the foreclosed shops across the way. Yet, Bushfan and neighbors are still determined to give their block a brighter future.
After opening Joe’s Diner and the neighboring Internet Cafe, opening of TROSA Grocery was Bushfan’s next big project. As a part of the non-profit organizations program, TROSA residents staff and operate vocational businesses that allow them to develop marketable job skills for the future. The revenue that each business generates is in turn used to support TROSA’s program says Noël.
“Vocational training businesses include moving, lawn care, a furniture and frame shop, a small catering business…and now, a grocery store. TROSA has a history of starting new businesses from the ground up,” says Noël.
With the help of former city councilman Dan Hill, Bushfan received a Neighborhood Commercial Revitalization Grant to begin restoration and work on rebuilding Angier Avenue. In fact, the building that TROSA Grocery is in today used to be a small church.
“The former church brought no economic value to the community,” says Bushfan.
With the only neighborhood grocery store almost two miles away, TROSA Grocery was destined to do just the opposite. Before, the M&M Mini Mart and the Buy Quick Food Marts were the area’s only food retail establishment, serving much of what could be found in a gas station. Not only is TROSA Grocery located in the heart of Northeast Central Durham, closer to more residents, but it also provide fresh, quality, produce to shoppers; a combination which is rare.
Noël says that though many changes aren’t huge, they are there.
“A couple years ago, when these buildings were empty…there wasn’t much to come up here for. Now, there’s a lot more walking and a lot more kids.”
On the sidewalk outside just outside of TROSA Grocery there is sign that reads “warm-up with a free cup of hot cocoa” in big white, chalky letters. This is just one of the many initiatives that Noël is taking to make the grocery store an integral part of the community. Other ways include an up-and-coming yard sale, a flower bouquet giveaway and weekly flyer distributions to homes in the area.
“Little steps have big impact…[and] we did it,” says TROSA Grocery architect, Patricia Harris.
However, their work is not yet complete. Bushfan and Noël both suggest that a neighborhood laundromat is in the works for new development on Angier Avenue.
“You get a grocery store, you get a laundromat. Once you’ve got those, you’re well on you way to getting more businesses invested,” says Noël.
The grocery store is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on TROSA Grocery contact store manager Wendy Noël at 919-524-9153.